Wear your hot pink hiking pants! This hike is amazing for both hikers and mountain bikers. I do believe there are way more mountain bikers than hikers…so wear something bright so they know where you are! Love that most of them had bells on their bikes to let us know when they were coming. This is wonderful place for mountain biking and hiking and love that we can share something so amazing!
The hubs and I got to China Camp Village early in the morning before anyone else was there. We parked in a prime parking spot and were able to tour the interpretive center with no one else around. We love hikes we can learn about some history and get a little exercise in. Definitely take a tour of this village whenever you have a chance. It is on the SF bay with amazing views and a huge piece of our history.
From this parking lot you can hop onto the Shoreline Trail toward the ranger station. Don’t forget your mosquito spray! I sprayed and still left with a few bites. Shoreline goes in and out of shaded forest to views of the bay and on to the ranger station. Head up Peacock Gap trail to Oak Ridge Trail. From here you are able to see the Richmond Bridge and the lovely bay. Side note, you yield to mountain bikers. Most of them were super nice and told us how many were with them so we knew how long to wait along the side. A few came flying around the narrow curves and scared me, apologized and kept going. Definitely wear the hot pink pants on this trail!
Continue on the Bay View trail through redwoods, oaks, over bridges and down to the campground entrance (potty stop!) and if you choose head over to Turtle Back Hill to learn about the rare salt marsh. I told the hubs my Indian name should be saltgrass. This plant thrives in the salt marsh and sucks in the water and sweats out the salt…sort of like I do! This little 3/4 mile loop allows you to learn a little more about how awesome Mother Nature is and how she adapts to her surroundings.
We walked along San Pedro Road and the salt marsh then hopped back on Shoreline trail just before Chicken Coop Hill. We wound around in beautiful shade with peek a boo views of the bay. This is a magical hike. I can see why the Miwoks settled here and why the Chinese fished this area for shrimp. I do understand it was hard labor but oh this place is magical. The bay, the views, the breeze, the fog, the trees and low mountains to explore.
Our legs took us almost 11 miles from beach to forest to bay to forest to beach. I can’t imagine a better place to spend 5.5 hours and 10.6 miles. I really can’t. We have been to some beautiful places but this one is so diverse and peaceful. I want to have a tiny house on the tiny island of Rat Rock so the hubs and I can enjoy this magic all the time.
Good amount of parking at China Camp Village with a kiosk that takes cards or cash for the $5 parking/hiking fee (if you choose to park offsite you still have to pay $3 use fee), elevation gain 650ft, moderate only due to the length of the hike, flushing toilets at all the spots, 10.6 miles, San Rafael has food!